Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN
Contact: Neil Carr Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
To receive any apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were submitted from Ken Miall.
Richard Dolinski chaired the meeting.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meetings held on 8 March and 13 June 2018.
The Minutes of the meetings of the Committee, held on 8 March and 13 June 2018, were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
Public Question Time
To answer any public questions.
A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.
The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting. For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions
There were no public questions.
Member Question Time
To answer any Member questions.
There were no Member questions.
Parish / Town Council Question Time
To answer any questions from Parish / Town Councillors.
There were no Parish or Town Council questions.
To consider an update on Code of Conduct complaints since the last meeting and any related feedback.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 9 to 14, which provided an update on Code of Conduct complaints. The report stated that, since the previous report to the Committee, in January 2018, one new complaint had been received.
The new complaint related to the alleged conduct of a Member prior to a public meeting in March 2018. Following an initial meeting between the Monitoring Officer, the Vice-Chairman of the Standards Committee and an Independent Person, an independent investigation had been conducted. The investigation had found no evidence of a breach of the Code of Conduct. Consequently, following a further discussion between the Monitoring Officer, Vice-Chairman and Independent Person, it was agreed that no further action be taken.
The Committee discussed any broader training/learning issues arising out of the report.
Imogen Shepherd-Dubey suggested that, in Code of Conduct cases where no further action was taken, the complainant and other interested parties should receive a more detailed reply setting out the reasons why the alleged behaviour was not found to be in breach of the Code. Following discussion, the Committee agreed that the provision of greater detail on the reasons for a particular decision would help to make the investigation process more transparent and robust.
In relation to the discussion at the previous meeting on the consultation exercise being carried out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Monitoring Officer provided an update. The Committee on Standards in Public Life had carried out two roundtable events in Aril 2018. These events had highlighted a number of issues, including:
· The high level of variation in local authority Codes of Conduct;
· Consistency in the declaration of interests;
· Treatment of gifts and hospitality;
· Lack of stronger sanctions which undermined public confidence;
· Effectiveness of the Independent Person role;
· Increasing pressures on the Monitoring Officer;
· The importance of “culture” and the role of the Government in driving improvement.
It was expected that the Committee on Standards in Public Life would publish a report on Ethical Standards in Local Government later in 2018.
Members also considered the provision of a training session on Code of Conduct issues prior to the next meeting on 15 October 2018. This was considered to be useful as there were a number of new/inexperienced Members on the Committee.
1) the update report on complaints and feedback be noted;
2) in relation to Code of Conduct cases where no further action was to be taken after the initial review, the Monitoring Officer provide more detailed feedback to complainants and other interested parties on the rationale for the decision;
3) the update on the review of Ethical Standards in Local Government, being carried out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, be noted;
4) a Code of Conduct training session be held prior to the next meeting, at 7pm on 15 October 2018, with the Standards Committee meeting to start at 7.30pm.